How to Become a Payroll Administrator

How to Become a Payroll Administrator: Career Path Guide

A career as a payroll administrator could be a great fit for you if you enjoy working at a desk, crunching numbers and having clear guidelines for your work.


This field can offer a chance to work independently but as part of a team, very good pay, and plenty of room for career advancement.


So, if you'd like to know more about the ins and outs of this field then read on; we’ll fill you in on what you would be doing for a living, how much you could earn, and what you’ll need to break into this profession!



Education and Experience Needed

Most employers require payroll administrators to have related post-secondary education or work experience, or a combination of both.


Related post-secondary education typically includes a diploma or degree in accounting, business administration, commerce, human resources, industrial relations or similar fields.


Relevant work experience may include working in human resources, working as an office clerk of any kind, or any kind of work that involved dealing with payroll related information or documents. 




General Job Description for a Payroll Administrator

As a payroll administrator, you’d be responsible for processing the payroll information of an organization’s employees, as well as determining their pay and benefit entitlements.


In processing the payroll of employees, you would have to reference regional and federal regulations and legislation in order to ensure their payroll activities are compliant.



General Job Duties

• Prepare periodic tax reporting slips, such as T-4s (Canada)

• Ensure compliance with labour standards and regulations, as well as government payroll remittance requirements

• Ensure employees are paid on time by cheque or electronic transfer

• Prepare payroll related reports and statements

• Liaise with third party service providers, such as insurance carriers and government agencies

• Ensure to follow proper procedures for safeguarding and releasing private and confidential employee information

• Reconcile issued payrolls to bank statements

• Respond to inquiries from employees



Certification Needed

Canada: Many employers will require that you have earned the Payroll Compliance Practitioner (PCP) designation through Canadian Payroll Association (CPA), or that you are working towards the designation. Other employers may not have a certification requirement.


United States: Some employers may require that you have completed, or are at least pursuing, Certified Payroll Professional (CPP) or Fundamental Payroll Certification (FPC) training. Many employers however, will accept relevant work experience in place of certification.



Technical Skills You’ll Need

In order to succeed as a payroll administrator you will need a certain set of technical skills. These skills may be gained while you’re a student (if you’re in a relevant program), or they may be learned on the job.


Some employers will insist you have them before they hire you, whereas others may start you out in a more entry-level role until you have learned them. Either way, these skills may (or may not - depending on the job) include:


• Proficiency with MS Office software, specifically Excel

• Understanding of payroll rules and regulations

• Knowledge of workers compensation payment procedures

• Knowledge of multi-rate, union and prevailing wage payroll procedures

• Strong knowledge of payroll practices for a full cycle payroll for both hourly and salary employees

• Proficiency with certain types of payroll software

• Knowledge of Multi-Jurisdictional issues related to payroll



Soft Skills You’ll Need to Succeed

There’s more to being a payroll administrator than just crunching numbers. You need soft skills to succeed in this role also; they include:


• Strong customer service focus

• The ability to respond appropriately in pressure situations with a calm and steady demeanor

• Strong time management skills with the ability to meet deadlines on a regular basis

• The ability to work independently, cross check and verify own work for accuracy

• Must be able to handle confidential information in an ethical and professional manner

• Excellent communication skills both verbal and written



Who Employs Payroll Administrators?

Your list of potential employers include all types of public and private sector organizations, as well as payroll service providers that contract their services to organizations that do not have payroll departments.



Career Advancement as a Payroll Administrator

Displaying competence and a good work ethic can afford you plenty of career advancement options, including:


• Earning a higher wage or salary

• Moving into supervisory and management roles, such as Payroll Supervisor

• Becoming an executive, partner or owner of the organization you work for

• Moving into other areas within your organization, such as Human Resources

• Becoming an accountant (with additional education)



Payroll Administrator Average Salary Level

The salary level you could earn as a payroll administrator can vary, depending on the following factors:


• Your level of experience

• Your level of education

• Any certification you have

• The region in which you work

• The scope of your job duties


Payroll Administrator Salary - Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Payroll Clerks occupational group earn an average salary of $56,058 per year.


Payroll Administrator Salary - Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadians working in the Payroll Clerks occupational group is $45,000 per year.


Payroll Administrator Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of Americans working in the Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks occupational group is $40,910 per year.



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Working Conditions for Payroll Administrators

Work Setting: Your work would take place in an office setting. You would likely not be required to travel, for work aside from your daily commute.


Working Hours: You would most likely work normal, weekday business hours. Your schedule could vary to include evenings and weekends, depending on whether or not you need to complete time-sensitive tasks and projects. 


Working Conditions: You'd spend a good part of your day working independently in front of a computer. You may spend some time during the day attending meetings with co-workers and management. Your work would involve sitting down and looking at a computer screen for long periods of time.



Careers Similar to ‘Payroll Administrator’

Listed below are occupations in our database that have similar responsibilities, and/or require similar skills, or be in the same sector of industry, as Payroll Administrator:


Accounting Clerk

• Benefits Officer

• Bookkeeper

• Compensation and Benefits Coordinator

• Human Resources Coordinator

• Office Clerk

• Payroll Supervisor




Please consult the following resources to learn more about what it takes to become a payroll administrator:


Occupations in Alberta:Payroll Administrator.” (March 17, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Occupational Employment and Wages:Payroll and Timekeeping Clerks.” (March 29, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.

Explore Careers:Payroll administrators.” (n.d.). Government of British Columbia - WorkBC website. Retrieved January 7, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Payroll Administrator

The Applicable Majors section below shows fields of study relevant to a career as a payroll administrator. You can search for scholarships matched to those fields of study on the following pages:


Accounting Scholarships

Business Administration Scholarships

Human Resources Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Payroll Administrator: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the college/university majors listed below can be helpful (or are necessary) for becoming a payroll administrator. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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